All Good Things Must Come to an End

As we approached our last night on tour, we needed to prepare for the next morning and day of travel. Boys were told that they would need to carefully prepare their belongings, especially football boots to ease the time taken to negotiate customs. The tour group frantically scrubbed and wiped clean boots to the satisfaction of staff before moving on to organise luggage. I can honestly say that 99% of the boots have never been cleaner in another fine display of regimental diligence from the tour party. During the chore, it was easy to see boys reflecting on what had been an amazing and maturing tour experience.

The next morning we said thank you and goodbye to Ian, our tremendous bus driver for the tour. We presented Ian with a small token and then the boys were given to opportunity to explore Queenstown on their own, to purchase souvenirs for dearly missed family members. Room was needed to cater for the gifts in carrry-on bags and so a lot of foresight and preparation was required. Plenty of care was taken to buy suitable gifts for siblings, parents and pets. The boys enjoyed their independence almost as much as the Queenstown “Cookie Time” where many NZ dollars were exchanged. Before long it was time to say goodbye to NZ and head to the airport for our trip home.

“Please fasten your seat belts for our approach to Sydney” with this well known statement from the pilot, all Newington tourists let out a deep sigh. Some may have sighed with happiness, knowing they would soon be reunited with parents. Some may have sighed with pride, after surviving a huge tour overseas on their own. Some may have sighed with disappointment, realising the tour of a lifetime was now over. These realisations were manifested in a wonderful outpouring of joy at seeing our loved ones once more. The love shown at the arrivals gate was totally expected but great to see! Boys and parents alike, cried, smiled and embraced together after 9 days apart.

It was an interesting trip home. It was plain to see that all tour members were ready to arrive home. The energy levels were definitely lower on the journey home. I am certain this was due to a combination of fatigue, advanced maturity levels and being in a reflective mood. I am sure the boys have a new respect for their parents after somewhat fending for themselves on tour.

The 48 boys had an absolute blast on the tour. They all became extremely good friends with camaraderie between boys from both campuses in abundance. The enjoyment on their faces was apparent during every game and experience. “The penny dropped” for many of the boys on tour in terms of their standards of play as well as their appreciation for where they fit in the world. Their sense of self was an important aspect to grasp for the boys enjoyment and growth on tour. Self-confidence, self-regard, self-respect, self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency, self-trust, self-worth were all states positively impacted on tour.

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Snow on Coronet Peak

After the jet boat ride, we took a short walk to the bus for Coronet Peak to experience some snow. Two extra layers including two pairs of socks was the order of the day as we started our incline towards the peak. After ten minutes we were greeted with some spectacular views back towards the city, with the beautiful rolling hills giving way to expansive rocky mountains. Amazingly the weather was extremely mild with sun blaring down illuminating the view.

One more corner and the snow field was upon us, with countless snow-capped peaks as far as the eye could see. The seat belts could not come off fast enough as the young crowd sprinted to the icy slopes, hurling snow balls almost immediately. After some negotiation, we found ourselves a relatively empty slope and began our sliding, snow ball fights and snowman building. The boys also created a tobogganing game of their own which did not involve any extra equipment.

Stefano Ottavio started us off, with a blow up pool ring as his toboggan. Stefano slid down the slope at quite a rapid clip, struggling to halt in time, narrowly missing the conspicuous, yet apparently conveniently placed medical building. Rules were applied to avoid an inevitable collision with the building. Sliders were only allowed to climb the mountain so far, to avoid reaching a terminal velocity. This did inhibit any boys hitting any immovable objects or flying off the side of the mountain. And so after hours of snowballs, snow forts and cold feet, we made our way into the restaurant for some well earned sustenance.

With many of the boys experiencing the snow for the first time, this aspect of the tour will be fondly remembered. We eventually made our way back down from Coronet Peak and spent some time at a park near our lodgings. After a mammoth game of bullrush the group made our way home to freshen up before dinner.

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K-Jet Boat Ride Queenstown

On a beautiful Queenstown morning, we set off for the harbour to experience riding in a stupendously powerful jet boat, humming and spinning down the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers. Anticipation filled the fresh alpine air with all tourists excited by the full throttle fun soon to begin. We stowed our bags downstairs and took in the aquatic life in the lake from an underwater viewing screen. Lost property on tour is an ongoing occurrence, but it is still mystifying to comprehend how Toby Phillips’ underpants had jumped from his bag and found their way onto the floor of the room.

Soon spray jackets and life jackets were fitted and the rules and safety precautions relayed. “All limbs must remain in the boat, when I do this….(driver spinning his hand in the air) hold on tight! We are about to do a 360!” Cheers erupted and faces beamed, with joyous smiles filling the $200,000 performance boat. We set off! Up goes the rev count, back go the heads, necks straining to keep our eyes fixed looking forward. The initial shock of the boats capability is released with a giant Woooohooooo! The first 360 degree spin delighted the Newington thrill seekers, jaws agape and eyes wide. Full speed ahead down the windy rivers, rocks and trees whizzing past at alarming speed. With landscape blurred from the pace, serene long range vistas were not impaired by the pace of hurtling beast.

Rain pelted our cheeks like tiny shards as we swept around the corners and bends of the pristine tributaries. Knuckles whitened and frozen from squeezing the railings too hard indicated the forces involved. We turned to head back to the port to see other jet boats perform their dynamic aquabatics in front of us. It was as if each boat was attempting to outmanoeuvre the next in an exhilarating display. All involved enjoyed the high powered ride, with freezing but satisfactorily thrilled faces aplenty.

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Skyline Cable Car & Luge Rides Queenstown

After checking in to our Queenstown accomodation, we walked to the foot of the Skyline cable cars preparing ourselves for some high speed action along the way. Obviously adrenalin was hastening our heart rates and cadence due to the excitement that was to follow and we arrived in no time at all. The ride to the top was as steep as it gets, but with every inch we climbed, the views of Queenstown became increasingly stunning. The beauty of this town is staggering and this final leg of our trip was to prove the most fitting finale for our wonderful journey.

Once at the summit, we all took time to appreciate the expansive and diverse vista of farmland, rivers, lakes, thriving townships and snow covered mountain tops. We also saw what skill the luge rides would require, with the gravity powered vehicles rapidly pouring down the winding slopes. It was now time for us to experience the luge ride. Helmets were fitted as we hopped onto another small cable car taking us to the starting line. Unfortunately Max Gallant was unable to participate after a small break in his arm was found after a misfortune at a park. Nonetheless, Max enjoyed watching his mates rev up, made all the more enjoyable with a cookies and cream ice cream from Mr Hazelton.

A short briefing on the race rules and luge instructions prepared the boys for their first cautious descent. It was soon clear that the driving skills and approach from the boys were many and varied. In 5 or 6 years time these boys will be able to drive a vehicle on public roads, a little disturbing to say the least, Sydney roads are dangerous enough these days! Surely their would be carnage to follow????? Jeremy Arfanis was certainly taking no chances, making it to the bottom of the ride in the slowest time ever recorded! Conversely, Hamish Danks reveled in the small 4 wheeled vehicle piloting his way down with a serious need for speed!

It is fair to say the boys efforts improved with their confidence throughout the 3 runs down the mountain, with very few incidents. Hotly contested racing meant for an abundance of tall stories, glory and excuses for lacklustre performances. Legend has it, that Mikey Hassan got airborne over one of the jumps and failed to take the next corner, cannoned into a wall and got stuck on a barrier. Apparently Mikey has more experience on vehicles with 2 wheels powered with something other than gravity.

Perhaps the most competitive racing of the day involved the staff. After an unchallenged victory in 2013 Joel “Mach Speed” Wilson was the early favourite to repeat this year. Neil “The Handbrake” Brunton, Mark “Miss Daisy” Caulfield and the 2015 rookie David “Throttle Back” Hazelton were keen to take the title. The staff race saw some of the fastest times in luge history. “Handbrake” got off to a flying start, it was somewhat dubious but after reviewing was deemed fair. “Miss Daisy” and “Mach Speed” battled early and looked to cut down the leaders margin. “Mach Speed” employed his renowned aggressive tactics but suffered devastating car failure, leaving “Miss Daisy” to attempt to run down “Handbrake”. In case you couldn’t work it out, “Throttle Back” was not in the same class of the others and was even overtaken by a few grandparents on his way down. But it was “Handbrakes” race after a clean run down the track in a professional and experienced display. “Miss Daisy” 2nd “Mach Speed” 3rd and “Throttle Back” just making it down in time for dinner.

This activity was one of the best according to many of the boys. It was starting to get late and the boys were excitable, tired as well as hungry. Tonight we were very fortunate to be dining at the highly popular skyline restaurant, overlooking the serene Queenstown framed by awe inspiring mountain ranges. In this splendid setting, we were able enjoy some amazing NZ food to compliment each others company. It was certainly our most enjoyable meal on tour, delicious food, well mannered boys and highly impressed restaurant staff, creating a celebratory atmosphere, befitting of such a wonderful tour.

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Off to Queenstown!

After a grand finish to our matches on tour, we slept well knowing we were soon to travel to Queenstown for the adrenaline charged leg of the tour. The boys made the most outstanding effort to leave their rooms in the state expected of them on tour, meaning we made a hasty get away. Word had spread about our sporting exploits and we were honored with a mention in the Southland Times newspaper, which was kindly left at our doors (photo attached)

This leg of our travel is definitely the most picturesque, with NZ’s famously beautiful scenery at its best. This was the final day of an enforced 2 day device amnesty which enabled the boys to appreciate their surrounds without staring at a screen. Throughout this amnesty, staff noted just how the boys behaviour had positively changed. More meaningful conversations, observations, reading, card games, social interactions and concentration had also changed for the better.

The first stop along the way was at the small town of Lumsden, where boys snacked then played at a park. 2 years ago, at this very park, we saw an epic battle for the ages, that we have now made a tradition on the tour. Staff members initiated a 20th century free play game that required a small target to be knocked off a pole with a tiny stone. Without much prompting we begin our game and watch the boys flock to see what it taking place and ask to join the old fashioned fun. After hundreds and thousands of stones are lobbed, persistence finally pays off for the champion of the day who holds the trophy aloft, celebrating with fellow competitors. The 2015 champion was the very accurate Ethan Strawbridge.

Lake Wakatipu is a glorious lake around 30 minutes from Queenstown. This was the next intermission for the boys en route. With ridiculously beautiful landscape to admire and more rocks to skim over the water, this was the perfect spot for a break. Once refreshed, it was on to Queenstown, excitement levels rising as we approached! What a way to finish our tour!

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Third Tour Matches v Marist, Star and James Hargest

After that incredible reminder of the true natural beauty that surrounds us, it was back to business as the boys prepared for their final match on tour. The footballers were dropped off first at the immaculate Southland Football Club grounds where once again the boys were confronted with a more fancied and experienced opposition in James Hargest on an immaculate synthetic field. After a pregame psyche-up which involved keeping a positive mindset, Liam Spiropoulos led his team out for the last time.

The match started with James Hargest dominating both possession and field position, stretching the defence and having many shots on goal. Thankfully for the black and white army, many of these shots were off target. After being on the receiving end of fast break goals in the first two games, it was the Newington team looking most likely to scores goal by turning defence into attack with some expertly placed through balls allowing strikers Chris Mina, Chris Tsolakis and Tom Baird some space in behind the defence. It was The local team that was first on the board when a strike from distance took a horrible turn for keeper Sam Sullivan and into the back of the net. 0-1.

Carrying an injury into the game, young Stefano Ottavio succumbed to the injury in the 15th minute, with Tom Billingham getting his chance in the centre back position. With a second goal to James Hargest soon after, the positive start from Newington was beginning to wane. No one told Liam Spiropoulos! After a perfect pass from Aiden Mostofi, Jake Boiling held the ball up perfectly for Spiropoulos to chip the keeper from 30 yards and put Newington back in it. 1-2 half time!

Spirits were soaring at the half time break as the sniff of victory wafted through the camp. The second half started with the black and white army dominating, with Mostofi, Jakes and Makovec coming into their own. At the back Aidan Principe was outstanding, nullifying raid after raid, and creating chances in the process. One chance saw a perfectly crafted play that saw Mostofi in space, where he was able to get in behind the defence and punish a left footed screamer in the top left corner of the net. 2-2. From here it was all Newington with chance after chance being created. Late in the second half a raid down the right side saw Makovec break clear and finish with aplomb and put the side up 3-2. Denis Antipas and Kieran Casey were providing ample support both in the middle and on the flanks.

Mostofi then had the chance to put the result beyond doubt when he cut inside and piloted the ball just past the near post. With only a minute remaining in the match a fast break from the opposition saw a rocket of a shot leave Ottavio with no chance and the James Hargest team had dodged a bullet. 3-3 the final result with Principe named man of the match and a lot of satisfied and exhausted boys headed over to the Marist Rugby fields.

With spirits high, the rugby boys entered the Marist Rugby Club facility to prepare for their last match. On arrival, it was learnt that we were to play a team from the Marist club and a team from Invercargill Star club. As these 2 club teams were relatively even in standard and ability, it was decided that Newington would choose parallel teams for the last match. This ended up being an inspired decision providing the boys with the perfect finish for the playing component of the tour.

Mr Wilson’s team, captained by Tom Cowdroy ran out against the Marist club team. After confronting another Haka, the team were keen to finish off on a positive note. Early indications told we were in for another good performance with Newington winning the field position battle. By surprise, our opponents were first to score after going 95 metres with an individual try to a Lomuesque winger.

Responding with a flurry of tries, the Newington team displayed how far they have come on tour. Absolutely every player contributed with an individual moment to remember. In the backs, Rhys Miller showed tenacity and skill at halfback. Will Rumi carved through our opponents and tackled all that moved. Sebastian Hailwood was expert under the high ball and Liam Dundon showed quick hands. Xavier Sheahan was diverse playing fullback as well as hooker and Garth (Brooks) Bickford crossed for another tour try. Tom Oates continued his brilliant form and commitment to the cause. But it was Marcus Renshaw who provided the play of the day with an immense chase and try saving tackle on a dynamic opponent.

In the forwards, Angus Ole was a colossus! Tom Cowdroy pumped his legs to carry defenders. Mikey Hassen, James Davison and Ethan Strawbridge were in everything and Will Stormont, Sam Eagleton and Tom Moody ran for huge metres. But it was Alex Frye who was awarded with man of the match after throwing himself into the teeth of the defence with regularity and success. Against an extremely aggressive and threatening opponent, the Newington boys held firm for a convincing win. With individual try scores too many to keep track of, the exact score ended up 37-12 in favour of the visitors.

Mr Hazelton’s team captained by Tom Hirst took to the field against local club side Star. A quick rearrange before the game did not impact of the boys ability to get out on the field and immediately slotting in position. The forwards dominated at the breakdown with David Doust, Mackenzie Sheppard and Ethan Strawbridge laying the foundation and making an impressive effort to get to all of the breakdowns. It wasn’t long before the strong performance of the forwards gave the backs a lot of opportunity to work their magic. Flynn Gannon provided great service from the base of the ruck/scrum, he also scored four tries in a man of the match performance. Ridley De Lange, Jarrah Ronan and Ned Greenwell linked effortlessly to string together many phases of passing to constantly challenge the defence and get over the advantage line.

The points started to flow in Newington’s favour and Oliver Kleppich got to test out his sights to go with his impressive defensive efforts often making one on one tackles in a last ditch attempt to quell their impressively large ball running number 8 and 13. Gabe Poidevin and Zac Zoud were impressive on both wings, injecting themselves into the play when appropriate and using great lines and width in their running.

The second half of the last match of a tour would provide a perfect platform for some players to try out a position they may not have played before, a perfect example was Toby Phillips running at 5/8 (he passes way too well for a prop). Toby and Tom Hirst both tried to Mal Meninga toe poke conversions, both missed. Sam Bristow, Hamish Danks and Will Gray all did Lindfield proud by providing a strong finish to the game with an excellent attitude and intensity. When the ref blew the final whistle the score read 56-0 in Newington’s favour and all boys were positively wrapped with their performance.

At the conclusion of the matches, all 33 Newington rugby players congregated in the centre of the field to sing a Newington chant, in celebration of an unbelievably successful tour. With 3 wins overall from the 6 games it has been a tour to remember for our rugby contingent. Once again our New Zealand hosts provided our group with an after-match function including refreshments and pleasantries. In a great display of mutual respect, the boys from either side took time talking and getting to know each other at the function. This is surely one of the most beneficial aspects provided by sport and one our boys enjoyed immensely.

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Trip to Bluff

This morning we awoke to a superb Southland morning, fresh air filling our lungs and sun shining down on our faces. Before we set off for our 3rd and final matches on tour, we travelled down to the oyster fishing capital of New Zealand. About 30 minutes drive South of Invercargill was the town of Bluff, which is pretty much the Southern most point of the South Island of New Zealand mainland. On a good clear day you can make out the large Stewart Island renown for NZ green lipped muscles. The boys were also tested on their retention of knowledge from the Antarctic Centre. As a little joke, they were asked to see if they were able to see the closest point of Antarctica from the lookout. Given Antarctica was 4800km from Bluff, this proved difficult, despite the squinting and pointing.

The famous signage at Bluff marking Sydney 2000km away, was an opportunity for the boys to reflect on home. The poignance was evident on some faces as they realised how far they were away from their family. In that moment, the boys independence and maturity levels take a step forward. The boys then had an opportunity to almost dip their toes in the great Southern Ocean and looked at some of the local flora and fauna, including in what would have to be the most futuristic public toilets in the Southern Hemisphere. After tonnes of smooth rocks were hurled into the ocean with varying success, we ascended Bluff hill in the struggling bus, for an amazing panorama of the land and sea.

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Pittstop Please!

Most longer bus trips on tour are broken up with a stoppage to stretch the legs and have a bite to eat. Weather permitting, we try and stop in an area for the boys to have run around and play some sports. On the journey to Invercargill, the perfect opportunity presented with sunny weather and a huge open space for recreation.

Here the boys played in the playground, pretended to be BMX ‘s racing around a track, climbed, jumped and see-sawed. It was the perfect release of energy before jumping back on the bus to continue the final kilometres to Invercargill.

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Baldwin Street (blood sugar level equalisation activity)

With chocolate in the bellies, smiles on their faces and Invercargill our next destination, we thought it necessary to experience one of Dunedin’s major attractions…the world’s steepest street. Measuring 161m in length, and with a steepest gradient of 39 degrees, Baldwin Street was going to be the hardest sprint these boys have ever experienced.

The race began and we set off for the difficult climb. And what a climb it was!! 20m into the climb, the breath was getting heavy, 50m into the climb, the quads were burning, and 70m into the climb the lungs were begging for oxygen. After 161m, exhaustion reigned, but success was had by all as we relived the famous Rocky scene with arms raised.

After taking in the breathtaking views from the top, the next challenge was walking back down, with the burning quads having to switch on again as we negotiated the wet, slippery road. As we re-entered the bus and took our seats, the sense of accomplishment was evident from the boys, as they rested their weary legs. Invercargill, here we come!

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Cadbury Chocolate Factory Tour

Saturday morning came with anticipation high and excitement at fever pitch. An interesting observation was the unusually high efficiency of movement out of cabins and onto the bus this morning. For now was the moment that a great majority of the boys had been waiting for. Conversely, the staff knew that this element of the tour, although over in around 2 hours, can have longer lasting consequences. An average 12 year old boys self regulation and control at the Cadbury Chocolate Factory gift shop are tested to the limit.

On arrival, the warm smell of sweet chocolate filled the Dunedin Streets. This pleasant sensory experience only fuelled the hysteria building amongst the group. A few quick photos outside and it was into the factory for a film on the history of Cadbury and the chocolate manufacturing process. Unfortunately at this time all cameras were banned from entering the factory. If we had been allowed to, there would have been many photos from inside, showing the boys pure pleasure and intrigue at seeing Cadbury chocolate in all its glory.

Many free samples were delightfully received during the tour. Brown lips and cheeks were in abundance, tongues clicking and squirming in an attempt to savour every sweet morsel. The tour took us through every stage of the chocolate making process, from cocoa bean to packaging. It was an unbelievable tour that perhaps climaxed when 1 ton of molten chocolate dropped from the ceiling of a huge silo right in front of our eyes.

We finished with an opportunity to purchase many chocolate and gifts in the Cadbury gift shop. The boys did not hold back! Many family members awaiting the boys return can look forward to a chocolate gift or two. This is unless the rate of consumption continues in the same vein over the next few days. Self restraint will need to improve if some gifts are to make it back through Australian customs.

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